On 16 February 2023, I moved detailed amendments to the government's Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill and gave the following speech about the need to ensure property developers don't control housing policy.
There are two central amendments that we would like to move to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Housing Measures No. 1) Bill 2023. The first is similar to our amendments to the National Housing Supply and Affordability Council Bill, which is ensuring that Housing Australia is a democratic institution with the voices of a diverse series of people across society and people who we know desperately need a proper solution to this housing crisis. That will include amending this bill to mandate that the Housing Australia Board must include representatives from the social housing and homelessness sectors and must include representation from First Nations people and housing organisations, low-income households, and people with lived experience of homelessness and social housing residence. And it must not include individuals with significant links to property development or the banking sector.
I said yesterday that one of the big issues with the Australian housing system at the moment is the power of property developers and banks and the power they wield over the housing system. For decades now we have seen a housing system that prioritises their profits ahead of the interests of ordinary people. We know, for instance, that skyrocketing mortgages and rents only benefit wealthy property investors, property developers and he big banks. Indeed, we just saw the Commonwealth Bank earn a record $5.3 billion profit. The question for the government is: whose side are you on when it comes to the housing crisis? Putting property developers and bankers in charge of the housing solution is only going to see the problem get worse, and that is a major concern with this entire housing package.
The second amendment we would like to make to Housing Australia frankly seems like a no-brainer. It is alarming to the Greens that this has not been included in the bill. To put it simply, define affordable housing. There needs to be a definition of 'affordable housing' in the Housing Australia bill, given the mandate of this entire package is to tackle the housing crisis and build social and affordable housing. The definition that we have offered is accepted widely across the housing sector, which is to define affordable housing as:
(a) rental housing; and
(b) housing that costs no more than 30% of income for the bottom 40% of households by income.
This is to ensure that we don't get these dodgy schemes where property developers say they're building affordable housing, but their version of affordable housing is charging rent at somewhere around 80 per cent of market rent.
Ask any renter out there, when they have seen rents go up by well over 20 per cent over the last 12 months alone, if they think 80 per cent of market rent would be affordable for them. There are millions of people out there—teachers, nurses, cleaners—who need an affordable place to call home, and if they are offered rent at 80 per cent of market rent, it will not be affordable for them. We need a way to ensure that housing built out of Housing Australia is actually affordable for the people that need it. We implore the government to accept these amendments. They are pretty basic. They ensure democratic representation in Housing Australia.
The one other issue I would like to address is the minister's response to a similar amendment on the supply and affordability council bill around expertise. I suppose I would argue that it is not property developers who are experts in building housing. It is urban planners, it is social scientists, it is architects, it is the builders themselves, and it is homeless people. There are people in social housing who know what they need. The experts—the people that actually build our cities—are not the property developers. The property developers are the ones that make money out of it. The experts are the ones on the ground. If you talk to architects and if you talk to urban planners, they'll tell you that often it's property developers that get in the way of good and well-designed housing.
This board should be stacked full of world-leading architects, people in social housing and urban planners, designing the best-practice housing and design. That seems an entirely reasonable demand to make. It's alarming to me that the government thinks that property developers are somehow experts when it comes to housing. What they're experts in is high profit margins—that's their expertise. We really want to make sure that they aren't the ones in charge of fixing a housing prices they created.